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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Privacy right to personal information - for free?

In the NSW Deputy Ombudsman’s paper referred to below in yesterday’s item about difficult complainants, there was a reference to the fact that government agencies can’t charge when a person exercises rights to access his/her personal information under the NSW Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act (PPIPA).

This came as a surprise to me as Section 14 of the Act says that a person shall be given access “without excessive expense or delay”. Most government agencies charge something around $30, an amount consistent with charges that apply to access to such information under the FOI Act.

However PPIPA was amended in 2004 as a result of the commencement of the NSW Health Records and Information Privacy Act. Amendments to PPIPA included a new section in the Act that, apparently in error, states that an agency may charge a fee for access to “health information” – it should have said “personal information”:
66B Fees
(1) A public sector agency may charge a fee for any of the following matters:
(a) giving an individual a copy of health information
(b) giving an individual an opportunity to inspect and take notes of the health information,
(c) amending health information at the request of an individual,
(d) any other matter prescribed by the regulations.
(2) Any fee charged must not exceed such fee (if any) prescribed by the regulations for the matter concerned.
I’m not sure how long this opening might be there before it’s slammed shut, or whether an agency might argue that section 14 prevails in any event, but its yet another example of the unhappy state of NSW privacy laws. (See Privacy policy patchwork below).

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